U.S. lesbian seeks asylum in Canada

Posted on 09 Sep 2009 at 11:06am

Bethany Smith, a lesbian who was in the U.S. Army but deserted because, she says, she was threatened and treated unfairly because of her sexual orientation, has fled to Canada and is seeking asylum there, according to a report posted today on Edge/Boston.

The Edge report is based on an article today in the Ottawa Citizen.

Smith, who now goes by the name Skylar James, says she was outed when someone saw her holding hands in public with another woman. After that, she says, she started receiving threats, including a death threat, and that her superiors treated her in a very hostile manner, that her workload increased and that she was subjected to repeated physical assault from a male colleague while others, including some superiors, watched and laughed.

Smith/James is basing her request for asylum on the claim that if she returns to the U.S., she faces military discipline that will be more harsh than usual because she is a lesbian, and because she will be judged in disciplinary hearings by the same people who harassed and threatened her.

Under the U.S. military’s ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell policy,” gays and lesbians supposedly can serve in the military, as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret. And the military is not supposed to go on “witch hunts” to out gay and lesbian servicemembers. But those who do come out willingly or are unwillingly outed are, according to DADT, supposed to be discharged.

Smith/James, however, said that after she was outed and the bad treatment began, she asked to be discharged under DADT, but her superiors refused.

The Edge report saidSmith/James’ appeal for asylum was originally submitted to the Immigration and Refugee Board, which rejected the request. Now Smith/James is taking her case to the Canadian federal courts.

This is hust one more glaring example of how DADT doesn’t work and should be rescinded. I don’t know the facts in the case. But I know this: If what Smith/James says is true, then DADT needs to be repealed so people in her situation have recourse and can fight back through the system against such treatment. And if she just ran because she was scared of being sent to a dangerous assignment or was just tired of being in the military, she couldn’t use DADT as a smokescreen if DADT didn’t exist!

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